ONE OF THE most shameful injustices in Britain’s dirty legal history was back in the news last week. In Cardiff Crown Court a man pleaded guilty to the murder of Lynette White in 1988. This is the same crime that Yusef Abdullahi, Tony Paris and Stephen Miller were convicted of in 1990.
The Cardiff Three, as they became known, were sentenced to life. They spent four years inside before they were released on appeal after a huge campaign. Of course had the death penalty still been law the three would have been hanged. Even after the three’s release there was always a cloud of suspicion left over them. This was increased by whispers from some in the media and the police that it had been a matter of ‘the right men arrested but the wrong methods used to get them convicted’.
The police will try to say that the latest developments show that in the end they get it right. But when the Cardiff Three were released the South Wales police refused to reopen investigations into the killing. They did not start new inquiries until 1999 and it is very unlikely that the latest developments would have happened without the persistence of Satish Sekar. He is the author of Fitted In, a book about the case.
Justice Leonard, the judge who presided over the Cardiff Three case, told the court at the original trial that the police investigation was ‘obviously very thorough’.
It was indeed thorough – a thorough stitch-up. The convictions rested on a confession by Stephen Miller that he had murdered Lynette, his former girlfriend.
He had been questioned 19 times by police over four days. He later retracted his confession. He told Socialist Worker, ‘It was a frightening experience. The police screwed my head up. I told them over 300 times that I didn’t know anything. But after four days with hardly any sleep or food my main object was to get away from them.’
There was racism involved in the case from the start. Witness statements said a white man had been involved – so the police arrested three black men. The convictions smeared the whole Butetown community in Cardiff where much of the population was black or mixed-race.
As Yusef told Socialist Worker, ‘Butetown was the oldest black community in the country. But with Cardiff’s dockland development it became a prime piece of land. When we were convicted of the murder it was used as an excuse to clear all the ordinary people out and build flats for the rich.’
The Crown Prosecution Service ignored many of its own guidelines in allowing the case to proceed to trial. The two trial judges then allowed inadmissible evidence. There would have been no justice without a campaign led initially by the three’s families and people in Butetown.
Tony Paris said, ‘Our families were fighting but all over the country different organisations and independent journalists took up our case. It involved black and white people and people we never dreamed we would be in contact with.’
Miners wrote from South Africa and trade unions passed resolutions demanding the three’s release. Other wrongly convicted prisoners sent messages of support and hope.
Socialist Worker was proud to be part of the campaign with updates on the case, interviews and calls to build up the agitation. Yusef Abdullahi is rightly still bitter about the way the police acted. He said last week: ‘There has definitely got to be an inquiry into it now – not just this case but all the other cases.’
The West and Russia vie for dominance
At the crossroads of imperialism
Struggling inside the Labour Party isn’t the solution for the left